Chesterton Tribune



Valpo Velvet owner Cathy Brown named to Tourism Board

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Porter County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, announced Tuesday that Valparaiso business owner Cathy Brown will replace her appointment Jesse Harper on the County Convention, Recreation and Visitor’s Commission.

Brown co-owns Valpo Velvet ice cream shop with her husband Mike Brown and has been involved with the improvements at Valplayso Park.

“She’s a lifelong Porter County resident and I think she will make a great addition,” Blaney said.

Harper had been recently reappointed as Blaney’s PCCRVC representative but submitted a letter in February saying he is stepping down to focus more time on law school and his campaign for state representative.

The Commissioners at their meeting Tuesday also received a presentation from PCCRVC Executive Director Lorelei Weimer highlighting the strides made in 2015. The Indiana Dunes Visitor Center saw nearly a 15 percent increase in visitors last year as did the PCCRVC website.

The Dunes remain Porter County’s number one tourist attraction, Weimer said, but progress continues on getting visitors to explore other parts of the county.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he is proud of the strong rapport the tourism bureau has with the National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park.

“Everybody works in harmony. It really is a great place,” he said.

A member of the audience, Joe Kusiak, encouraged the PCCRVC to reach out to non-profit groups in the County that have events that attract visitors and find ways to work together.


Later in the meeting, Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, pushed for using $1 million in the County’s Major Moves fund to pave more roads this year.

That would essentially double the amount this year that the County spends on paving, bringing the amount to $2 million. Good said because the cost of petroleum has significantly decreased, the County can now “get the most bang for its buck” in getting roads paved.

Evans reminded the audience that Major Moves money comes from the sale of the Indiana Toll Road and Porter County is one of the few counties that held on to their funds for saving rather than spending.

“I think it’s a very worthwhile idea,” Evans added.

According to County Auditor Vicki Urbanik, the County has $6.4 million of Major Moves money left.

To use the extra $1 million, a request will have to be made to the County Council.

The discussion came up after the Commissioners approved bids for asphalt from Walsh & Kelly and Reith-Riley Construction and for liquid bituminous, and Bit Mat Products and Asphalt Materials Inc.

Animal Shelter update

Stephen Kromkowski of DLZ Indiana informed the Commissioners that the technical review committee will be scoring the proposals for an animal shelter submitted by the top three firms: Core, Epoc, Millies and Abonmarche; Gairup/M2Ke design; and Larson-Danielson Construction Company Inc.

The Commissioners next meeting on May 10 is when the committee will give the scores and the projected construction costs. The winning proposal is expected to be chosen later in May.

The new design build process is expected to bring down overall construction costs, Kromkowski said.

“You’re getting the best value by seeking qualifications and the best value in this next process,” he told the Commissioners. “We’re not moving ground yet by we are close.”

In another Shelter matter, Facilities Director Matt Stechley sought bids again on tree removal after asking three responding firms to give prices on manageable wood cuts. The company that came in the lowest bid was Glovier Tree Services, Stechley said, which the Commissioners approved.

Getting ready for the fair

The Porter County Fair Board plans to put in somewhere between $250,000 and $300,000 of improvements at the fairgrounds before the fair starts on July 21, board president Matt Wellsand told the Commissioners.

Wellsand said his board is looking to “patch up” the campground area, refurbish the Buggy Wheel Pavilion, make various upgrades to the show arenas such as adding lighting the to horse arena, installing glass doors at the Expo Center entrance and possibly installing air conditioning for the 4-H Building.

Grandstand concerts this year include acts Chris Janson, Cole Swindell and Alabama. “Ticket sales are doing well,” Wellsand said.

Good asked that the fair board wait on the campground improvements for the next 45 days or so until the County can “bring up” water and sewer for the new animal shelter located northwest of the fairgrounds. Wellsand said it should not be a problem.

Other business:

-- County Auditor Vicki Urbanik told the Commissioners that she will be hosting a public workshop on Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon on how tax abatements work and how the county is impacted. Also, next week she will be displaying the entries for the “Saving money is É.” art contest around the auditor’s office. The contest is for students in grades K-12 who can use a piggy bank design or an original drawing to think creatively about saving money.

-- Members of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society said they were successful in receiving a $15,000 grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs for restoring the historic Collier Lodge near the Kankakee River in Pleasant Twp. The grant was supported by the Commissioners.

“Thank you, thank you,” KVHS member Mary Hodson told the Commissioners. “This is the first step in being able to restore the (Lodge) to its former glory. We see it as a keystone to south (Porter) County.”

-- Stechley said the power shutdown at the Jail/911 center will be May 13 while crews troubleshoot the jail’s main generator. An extra generator will be used for $5,759 to power the 911 center and Stechley said he will look in the near future to recommend new backup batteries. In another maintenance matter, Stechley recommended getting a new sound system put in for the Commissioner’s Chambers at the County Administration Building.

-- The Commissioners gave permission for the Valparaiso Arts Committee to place one of their sculptures this year in front of the County Administration Building and at the Porter County Museum as part of the Committee’s yearly Art Walk. The sculptures will be installed in May.

-- A polling place change was made for the Center Twp. 17 precinct from the Indiana National Guard Armory to Hampton Inn & Suites.



Posted 4/20/2016




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